The Biofuels Policy of Zimbabwe fosters the production, use and sustainability of the liquid biofuels sector in the country, especially ethanol from sugar cane and biodiesel from jatropha, until 2030. Its aims are to reduce the country's dependency on oil imports, and to reduce its greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions.
It is unclear whether the target of ethanol blending ratio set out in 2019 by the Ministry of Energy and Power Development (20% by 2030; 33% reduction of GHG emissions from biofuel use), has been retained in the document in force.
The National Biofuels Policy was developed with a wide range of consultations from stakeholders in the Biofuels value chain in the country. Stakeholder consultative workshops were held in the Mashonaland region, Matabeleland region and in the Masvingo region.
The National Energy Policy has guided in the development of the Biofuels Policy which is in line with the Ministry’s vision, “To achieve universal access to sustainable and modern energy in Zimbabwe by 2030”. The policy mainly focuses on liquid biofuels in the transport sector during the period leading to year 2030. This is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 7, “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” and the Sustainable Energy for All initiative objective to ensure universal access to modern energy services by year 2030.
The Biofuels Policy has been developed to guide the biofuels sector and to create an enabling environment for viable biofuels projects to be implemented in the country. The Biofuels Policy assists in bridging a supply gap in the country and thereby increase biofuels production which in turn results in the security of supply for the nation. The import bill is significantly reduced and there is employment creation and subsequently, poverty is reduced. The Policy promotes investment in the Biofuels sector and allows for a level playing field for all players who would want to venture into the Biofuels value chain. The Policy also addresses issues of market inefficiencies by opening up the market for competition and also looks at a decentralized model of implementation for biofuels projects.
Having noted that 68% of the Zimbabwean population lives in the rural areas and high levels of energy poverty exist there, the Policy promotes rural development and improved livelihoods for the rural populace. There are great opportunities for rural communities to participate in the biofuel feedstock value chain. This is in line with the National goals of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (2018 - 2020) and Vision 2030. This Vision is anchored on re-engagement with the Global Community, private sectorled rapid growth and development as well as enhanced domestic and foreign investment as encapsulated by the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business”.
Benefits of a domestic biofuel sector
Zimbabwe’s energy demand is rising with a current national requirement of three million three hundred thousand (3 300 000) and four million three hundred thousand (4 300 000) litres of petrol and diesel per day respectively. The policy recognises that the widespread adoption of bio-fuels could reduce the country’s dependence on imported petroleum products; stabilize fuel prices; ensure energy security; promote rural development and investment; reduce poverty; and create employment. See Harare-Feruka Pipeline.
Fuel import substitution from biofuels has several benefits which include:
- Enhanced energy security, especially in the transport sector;
- Creation of a large market for agricultural products, representing significant economic opportunities in the rural areas;
- Improvement of the country’s trade balance;
- Additional employment across the biofuel value chain;
- Supporting the development of a “Green Economy”.
Policy Scope and Objectives
- The Policy covers the period up to year 2030 and focuses on liquid biofuels in the transport sector, initially ethanol from sugar cane and biodiesel from Jatropha, while exploring the possibility of using other feed stocks for bio fuel production.
- The Policy is structured around four interrelated pillars, namely the economic; agricultural; environmental; and social and institutional which identify and respond to the key issues that need to be addressed for successful sector development.
The Policy proposes that the country:
- achieves a consistent and sustainable ethanol blending ratio of up to 20% by 2030
- introduces biodiesel at a blending ratio of up to 2% by 2030
- increases the number of players in the biofuels sector
The Policy articulates specific strategies and key actions under each of its five policy objectives which are:
- To improve the viability and long term growth and sustainability of the bio-fuels sector;
- To ensure the maintenance of bio-fuel product quality and standards;
- To improve the productivity and economic viability of bio-fuel feedstock production;
- To implement development trajectories that balance bio-fuel investments with biodiversity
maintenance and water and air pollution; and,
- To implement production models that increase community benefits from bio-fuel investments and foster institutional cooperation and coordination.
History / Events
The production and use of biofuels in Zimbabwe has been taking place since the 70s, albeit with interruptions. In the 1980s, Zimbabwe started producing bioethanol using molasses as feedstock at the Triangle Ethanol Plant, which was the first production facility of its kind in Africa. Petroleum blending was done at a rate of twelve to fifteen percent (12–15%) with ethanol. The production plant ceased operation in the year 1992 due to severe drought conditions which led to failure to access the feedstock, while at the same time unblended fuel also became cheaper.
In the year 2005, the country re-looked into the prospect of using the jatropha plant for biodiesel production and launched the National Bio-Diesel Feedstock Production Programme with the aim of establishing Jatropha plantations right across the country and a Jatropha processing plant was set up in Mount Hampden. However, the project was later abandoned due to lack of coordination and the inability to pay an attractive price to the farmers for jatropha, which eventually led to lack of constant and reliable supply of the feedstock.
In February 2008, a memorandum was presented to Cabinet that proposed the development and use of biofuels in order to mitigate the impact on the economy of the rise in fuel prices. In May 2008, Triangle had started to produce hydrous ethanol. In addition, Finealt, a state-owned company tasked with the development of a biodiesel value chain, had entered into a joint venture with an Italian corporation to cultivate ten thousand (10 000) hectares of Jatropha. In 2009, there was an introduction of the multi-currency system and companies were allowed to import fuel independently. This led to fuel becoming available in the market and hence biodiesel production was no longer seen as a priority.
However, in 2011 a large bioethanol plant project was resuscitated at Chisumbanje in the Chipinge District. The plant was set up on a joint venture partnership between the governmental Agricultural Rural Development Agency (Arda) and a private investor, Green Fuels. It was set to be the largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011 Green Fuel did start producing anhydrous ethanol and was selling it on the market until in February 2012, when it was forced to shut operations.
In 2013, the government introduced Mandatory Blending of Anhydrous Ethanol with Unleaded Petrol. Initially, the blend was set at ten percent (10%), meaning that all licensed procurers and wholesalers of unleaded fuel must ensure it has been blended with a minimum ten percent (10%) of ethanol produced by a licensed producer. This mandate has subsequently been varying between ten percent (10%) and twenty percent (20%), depending on ethanol supply.
In 2020, the mandatory percentage of ethanol blending was restored to 20 percent, from the 10 percent it went down to when ethanol production fell below market requirements. Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi announced this in a general notice gazetted as General Notice 926A of 2020. Government introduced fuel blending in 2008 following the licensing of Green Fuel’s Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant, which resumed operations in 2013. Blending of fuel was exclusively conducted by licensed blenders and in 2020 there were 11 such licensees under Zera regulations.
In 2021, ethanol blending was mentioned on p24 of Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe in Case Study 2, The Fuel Cartels, and a subsection ethanol cartel.
Another cartel in the fuel industry is the ethanol cartel. Fuel is mandatorily blended with ethanol in Zimbabwe in the ratio of 80 per cent petrol to 20 per cent ethanol.  Green Fuel is a joint venture company between the state-owned Agricultural and Rural Development Authority(ARDA) and companies linked to Zimbabwean businessman, Billy Rautenbach, (VOA. 2014. “Green Fuel: Zimbabwe Should Pay for Majority Company Stake.” VOA, March 27) who was heavily involved with ZANU-PF during the DRC war. ( Global Witness. 2002. Branching Out: Zimbabwe’s Resource Colonialism in Democratic Republic of Congo. Global Witness)
Green Fuel is one of two operations that supplies ethanol to fuel companies – the other is Triangle Limited which produces sugar, and ethanol as a by-product. (Triangle Ltd, another sugar cane producer, has been supplying NOIC with ethanol since 2016. (See “The Herald. 2017. “Triangle in Ethanol Talks.” The Herald, April 11) Under the Mugabe administration, Green Fuel enjoyed a monopoly over the ethanol market as the sole licenced ethanol supplier. (Makichi, T. 2017. “Govt liberalizes ethanol production.” Herald, March 8). In addition to its own production, Green Fuel would reportedly acquire ethanol from Triangle and sell it as its own. A Deputy Minister of Energy in the Mugabe administration revealed that, in 2015, Triangle was selling ethanol at US$0.78 per litre while Green Fuel was selling it at US$0.88 per litre. (Daily News. 2015. “Govt, Green Fuel in indigenisation talks.” Daily News, August 20.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture has explained that “ethanol produced by Triangle is from molasses and is cheaper than the ethanol produced by Green Fuels from fermentable sugars.” (U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2018, April 18. Zimbabwe: Sugar Annual. Accessed at: https://apps.fas.usda.gov/newgainapi/api/report/downloadreportbyflename?flename=Sugar%20Annual_Pretoria_Zimbabwe_4-18-2018.pdf) Currently (2020), ethanol is produced by Green Fuel at an estimated cost of US$0.45 per litre, (Pindiriri, C. 2016. The Economic and Environmental Costs/Benefts of Green Fuel: The Case of the Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant . African Economic Research Consortium) but is sold to NOIC and fuel companies at US$1.10 per litre, (ZERA. 2020. Fuel Sector Notice: Fuel price build up (USD). ZERA) generating signifcant economic rents. As with the fuel cartel, the Mnangagwa administration has brought changes. In January 2019, the administration issued a licence to Triangle Limited. (Daily News. 2019. “Govt Issues License To Buy Ethanol From Triangle Ltd.” Daily News, January 12) Triangle had in 2018 attempted to acquire the licence by partnering NOIC in a joint venture with the Fuel Ethanol Company of Zimbabwe (Private) Limited (FECZ). (Makichi, T. 2018. “Zim to save $64 million from blending petrol at 20 percent.” Business Times, June 19) However, Green Fuel succeeded in lobbying against the licencing of the joint venture. (Makichi, T. 2018. “NOIC/Triangle bungle on ethanol joint venture.” Business Weekly, February 23). Green Fuel’s viability and competitiveness is threatened by the licencing of Triangle. (U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2018. Zimbabwe: Sugar Annual. U.S. Department of Agriculture). So far, Green Fuel’s production has been unaﬀected, and it has consistently produced 56 million litres of ethanol in each of the last two marketing years whilst Triangle has also maintained production at 26.1 million litres in each marketing year. (U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020. Zimbabwe: Sugar Annual. U.S. Department of Agriculture).
Zimbabwe requires 120 million litres of ethanol a year to achieve a blending ratio of 20% ethanol (E20) therefore current production is still below demand. (Biofuels International. 2015. “Zimbabwean Hippo Valley applies to supply local ethanol market.” Biofuels International, September 24).
Experience in Zimbabwe and around the world has shown that a national policy is needed to guide the long-term development of the biofuel sector and ensure its sustainability, and lack of one can result in inconsistent and fragmented activities that do not deliver the desired outcomes. The National Biofuel Policy has been developed to fill the biofuel policy vacuum in Zimbabwe and deliver specific objectives, as identified below.
The NBPZ has been drafted based on the following specific values:
- Transparency of all processes related to biofuel activity in the country.
- Accountability of all stakeholders involved in the biofuel value chain, including Government, farmers, biofuel producers, oil companies, fuel distributors and users.
- Respect for all stakeholders and their views.
- Humility by applying the precautionary principle when unsure of the impacts that biofuels might have, especially on the environment and the rural poor.
- Team Spirit for effective coordination and avoiding of competition between the various stakeholders involved in the biofuel value chain.
- Sustainability for ensuring that biofuels produced and consumed in Zimbabwe are economically, environmentally and socially beneficial to the nation.
- , Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Accessed: 20 September, 2020
- , Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, Accessed: 20 September, 2020
- <https://www.herald.co.zw/petrol-blending-back-to-e20/ Petrol blending back to E20], The Herald, Published: 8 June 2020, Retrieved: 16 February 2021